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Red Right Hand: LIVE OR DIE
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



Pulse aired last night as part of BBC Three's drama pilots program (more about that in a mo'). It's about a hospital with weird goings-on and it's written by Paul Cornell.

It wasn't the premise that got me to watch this, it was that Paul Cornell wrote it. He didn't create it, that was Ben Teasdale (of whom I admit no knowledge), but it was enough for me to make the effort to give it a go.

Yes, the name is enough, because Paul Cornell wrote, arguably, three of the best (and unarguably most tearjerky) episodes of Doctor Who yet created (specifically "Father's Day" and the "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" two-parter). He's also got a bunch of other BBC credits I don't know as well, but notable in this instance are his episodes of Casualty (the British ER).

From the BBC:
Pulse is a tense, unnerving story focusing on Hannah, who resumes her training at one of the country's top teaching hospitals a year after her mother's death. She is soon terrified by strange visions and the threatening behaviour of her ex-boyfriend and star surgeon Nick, and wonders if she's come back too soon. Beneath the hospital's reputation of medical excellence she discovers a secret network of dangerous experiments pushing back the boundaries of science....
From the outset, it reminded me of two things. Grey's Anatomy and Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. That did not bode well for my enjoyment of this program, for while I kinda liked the later, I'm not a fan of the former.

I think Pulse leans a little too much on the hospital soap model for me and so I found myself pretty much resisting it. And the horror aspects (with things growing in people and creepy doctors and what-not) didn't do a lot for me either, which I chalk up not to being bad, but to the fact that 98% of horror doesn't do anything for me. It's really got to get at some specific aspect of me to really creep me out and the fear-of-hospital doesn't cut it. In fact, one scene in which a patient wakes up during a slightly bizarre surgery elicited more of a groan from me than shock when the observing residents were splattered with blood. I don't know why, it's just seems slightly comedic to me.

And the attack on a "possessed" patient with a bonesaw to the neck just wreaked of slasher flick to me.

And the pacing was a little slow in the first half, even with the naked and the sex. That's the only objective criticism I can make.

Here's the thing though, if it were to be picked up, I'd probably watch a few more. It could get better. It could self-adjust.

Pulse is part of a thing BBC Three does where they put up three drama pilots and the viewers decide which lives and which dies. Something I've long thought that American networks should be doing to some extent. After all, given the millions of dollars that get flushed away every year on unsold pilots, you'd think they could repurpose them somehow, especially in the day of the digital download (remember that Aquaman CW pilot (Mercy Reef) that got released on iTunes and sold like hot tuna...assuming there's a good business for such a thing, they they never did such a thing again).

Why not take the close calls that almost got ordered and put them on at some point, let them battle it out in the coliseum of public opinion and give it a mid-to-late season order of six.

It worked out well for them last year. It gave them Being Human, which then sold fairly quickly to BBC America, who are not always quick to snag things from their sister station. It's also being remade in an American version for Syfy.

BBC is a much different model than American networks, but still...something might be worth exploring.

On the subject of the BBC, let me close with this - Watch LUTHER!!!! It rawks. The sooner this gets to BBC America, the better.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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